I have been in a wheelchair now for a good 2-3 years now, and have had many reasons to both love and hate my chair.
I find that if I want something on the shelves in Tesco, I have to have 14ft arms or the ability to control metals like Magneto from X-men when I need to get baked beans or soup, but then, as I don’t normally shop on my own, my carer has to do this for me, meaning I have to rely on her, when all I want is to be independent!
I also have to put up with people staring at me when I’m on my phone, as I have a Bluetooth headset and it looks like I’m talking to myself, and it’s assumed that I’m a “mental case” as well as a mobile “basket-case”…BUT…it’s my legs that don’t work properly, NOT my brain, and people just don’t seem to understand that!
I’m used to the funny looks when my carer, who is my wife, kisses me, probably because as I’m in a wheelchair, they think I can’t have kids OR a sex life? WRONG!!! As Daniel Craig as James Bond:
“That’s because you KNOW what I can do with my little finger!
…so there! NER!!!
Going into shops isn’t decided by my need for their wares and products, but whether I can wheelie enough to get over the step, as they don’t have a ramp, and I do and shout “BANZAI!!!” and watch the staff either panic or dive for cover as I enter!
I generally suffer the usual round of apathy and insensitivity generated by anyone who sees me in my chair and people we meet who talk to my carer, and generally suffer from the kind of shock you would suffer from a severe traffic accident when I speak to them!!!
I have to say, people who work in mobility stores are great, as they talk to me, and treat me with respect and consideration! It’s rather refreshing!
This is usually limited to mobility shops, as the staff in other shops are either to busy sorting out their social life on their phones, or makeup touch-ups, or chatting with anyone but me, as I’m in a chair and obviously have some form of communicable “legs-not-working” disease they can catch by merely looking at me!
Getting around town, as covered in my earlier articles, can be a trial and makes the planning for a military exercise look like it was put together by a 4-year old with an aversion to using anything but giant crayons to write and draw with!!!
People on bikes who ride through the pedestrian areas, nearly hitting me at “warp-speed” and then try to blame me for being on their planet?
Get lost…I have as much right to be here as anyone else, and as I’m not ignoring the law by riding through town at breakneck speed, it’s NOT my fault, but yours you bloody MORON (I can be rather scathing and sarcastic in my verbal assaults, but usually people need the direct approach, so “moron” works quite well, I think!)
Or the buggies that hit me in the side or back as the “person” pushing them is engaged in an in depth and thoroughly engrossing discussion with “Mark, 21 from Bradford” or some other unknown on facebook or some other social website!
Scooters, whose drivers sometimes need to take a test, whilst trying to miss me, usually hit me even harder (do I have a bulls-eye painted on me somewhere?).
I drive a scooter, but my aim is slightly better and I don’t approach driving one like a sniper using a machine gun at 5 yards away!!!
Being a wheelchair user isn’t something I saw in my future when I was able-bodied over 5 years ago, but I am in one now, and have to make a best of it.
At least I’m sitting down when shopping, and I have the most comfortable seat in the restaurants and/or coffee shop and with my rucksack, I can carry a combination lock bike lock with me, to get my own back on those pesky cyclist who believe that ANY piece of path is fair game, and everyone has to get out of their way so they can keep up with a decent body count whilst saying there are “ozone-friendly” and “green”!!!
My wheels come from a bike design and have to be pumped up every month, but you can get solid tyres, and my casters (front wheels for those who don’t know) are quite large and look like they wouldn’t be out of place on an industrial lathe, but they do the job.
Wheelchairs come in many different “flavours” from the foldable, to light weight, to powered to rigid bodied, but they all have one thing in common…they have SOMEONE in them!!!
When you are out and about, give a thought to a wheelchair user…they want acceptance, have someone talk to them, not their carer or over them, and most of all, TRY AND MISS US with your pushchairs/bikes/scooters/stupidity!!!